Last year, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) created something of a firestorm amongst environmental activists by approving a very limited hunt of Florida Black Bears (delisted in 2012) in accordance with its management plan for the species. The hunt, generally supported by large landowners, agricultural interests, and hunters, was held in October 2015 and was so successful that the hunts were stopped after only 1 day of the scheduled week, having exceeded the prescribed quota of kills. This fact and other data have left FWC biologists to conclude there are significantly greater numbers of black bears than projected.
Environmental groups were outraged at the hunt, and when news came that the FWC was considering another hunt, several groups filed a joint petition with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) in March of 2016 seeking to have the species listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Center for Biological Diversity stressed the FWC – managed hunt as one of the bases for listing. The petition also seeks to have critical habitat designated for the species, presumably large swamps and associated upland buffers – preferred bear habitat – within the primary and/or secondary ranges identified by the FWC:
FWC at its April 2016 meeting directed staff to discuss appropriate quotas and hunt management at its June meeting, but has not yet voted on whether to authorize another hunt.
Please contact Susan Stephens for more information.